In vivo characteristics of cationic liposomes as delivery vectors for gene therapy

Pharm Res. 2002 Nov;19(11):1599-605. doi: 10.1023/a:1020989709019.


After a decade of clinical trials, gene therapy seems to have found its place between excessive ambitions and feasible aims, with encouraging results obtained in recent years. Intracellular delivery of genetic material is the key step in gene therapy. Optimization of delivery vectors is of major importance for turning gene therapy into a successful therapeutic method. Nonviral gene delivery relies mainly on the complexes formed from cationic liposomes (or cationic polymers) and DNA, i.e., lipoplexes (or polyplexes). Many lipoplex formulations have been studied, but in vivo activity is generally low compared to that of viral systems. This review gives a concise overview of studies on the application of cationic liposomes in vivo in animal models of diseases and in clinical studies. The transfection efficiency, the pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic properties of the lipid-DNA complexes, and potentially relevant applications for cationic liposomes are discussed. Furthermore, the toxicity of, and the induction of an inflammatory response in association with the administration of lipoplexes are described. Increasing understanding of lipoplex behavior and gene transfer capacities in vivo offers new possibilities to enhance their efficiency and paves the path to more extensive clinical applications in the future.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cations
  • Drug Delivery Systems / methods*
  • Genetic Therapy / methods*
  • Humans
  • Liposomes / administration & dosage*
  • Liposomes / pharmacokinetics


  • Cations
  • Liposomes